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New boss sets Rhinos a tough task

PUBLISHED: 15:58 25 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:34 07 September 2010

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HARINGEY Rhinos' new head coach has set his side the challenge of winning three of their four games in the run-up to Christmas. Former South Africa rugby league international Rubert Jonker replaced Tim Hutchins at the Haringey helm...

HARINGEY Rhinos' new head coach has set his side the challenge of winning three of their four games in the run-up to Christmas.

Former South Africa rugby league international Rubert Jonker replaced Tim Hutchins at the Haringey helm four weeks ago, having spent seven years with north London neighbours London Skolars.

He finds his new team struggling in ninth place out of the 12 teams in London Division 4 North-West, with three wins and five defeats from their opening eight league fixtures.

Despite that disappointing record, which is largely due to a number of injuries and absentees, Jonker believes he has taken over one of the best teams in the league - and he is urging his players to prove it in the next month.

"I'm not here for the fun of it, we want to win games and move up the league, and with no disrespect to the other teams in the division, I think we've got the players here to do that," he told the Journal.

"Ideally we want to get to Christmas and win as many games as we can. I'd like to think we can win all four but we have to be realistic as well with the number of injuries and absences we have. But I think we should certainly aim to win three of those games."

The Rhinos' new boss certainly comes with plenty of experience, having represented his country in tests against England and France in 2001 and the West Indies in 2005.

Jonker initially came to the Rhinos as assistant manager to Hutchins at the start of the season, but stepped into the hotseat when Hutchins moved on due to personal commitments.

"I enjoyed working with Tim, he puts 100 per cent into everything he does, but at the end of the day he had to make a decision, you can't work for 24 hours a day all the time," added Jonker, who believes he is quickly adjusting to life with his new club - and the different rules.

"People tend to think there's a big difference between rugby union and rugby league, but I don't think the concept is that different - to tackle and score tries.

"In a way I'm going back to my roots. I've got some experience in coaching, I coached the Skolars' second team so it's a chance for me to carry on and put across my own ideas.

"There are a few changes we've made but nothing dramatic, the improvement will come slowly but surely. We take each game with the same philosophy - we can't lose, we can only run out of time!

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